Saturday, August 3, 2013

"Grease" Now Playing At The James F. Dean Theatre Is Audaciously Entertaining and Exuberant Fun

All you need is a simply constructed set, a few 1950's style props, and a greased-up, hopelessly devoted group of local actors Born to Hand-Jive and you have the ingredients for a fun night out. There Are Worse Things I Could Do on Friday Summer Nights, like cruisin' N. Main street in Greased Lightnin' or spending the evening Alone At The Drive-in Movie with Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee the Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen, but none better than a reserved seat in the third row of the James F. Dean Theatre being entertained by the Flowertown Players latest stage production of Grease. Well, maybe a front row seat would have been one better, but I am not complaining.

When the 1978 musical film of Grease was released, I didn't pay much attention to it. Watching greaser John Travolta singing and dancing around was not my idea of entertainment at the time, although seeing good girl Olivia Newton-John strutting her stuff in skin-tight, black leather pants would have been worth the $2 ticket. To this day, I still haven't watched the movie in its entirety, even though it was successful both critically and at the box office with the second-best selling album of that year in the United States. It also bears the distinction as the No. 1 highest-grossing musical, to date. So, why expose myself now? Partly, the greaser-collegiate days are long gone, I was a collegiate, but ultimately, I love the theater.

The Flowertown Players have compiled an energetic, passionate group of Grease lovers, and it oozed on stage. The sold out theater was spellbound and applauded every song. The two-tiered stage was simply constructed and efficiently used for accommodating the changing scenes. A live band added to the realism.

The stage crew handled the various props almost flawlessly. A significant challenge was the necessary incorporation of a real car, an integral piece of equipment that needed to be moved on and off the front of the stage for a few of the scenes, by hand. There was just this one minor malfunction I will leave unmentioned because the crew and actors were quick on their feet and didn't miss a beat. Its live theater and its called "thinking out of the box".

The actors were typecast well. The Pink Ladies of Rydell High all delivered an excellent performance. Andrea Rausch played the rudely blunt, hardcore Betty Rizzo and was a standout in the song Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee.

Beauty School Dropout, Frenchie, was played by Rebecca Jones. Rebecca walked and talked the part spot-on and mirrored the look of the girls I remember from the late fifties.

Sarah Farra was captivating as Marty, the girl you would love to date. I loved her lively and cutesy deportment. Alyssa Nasce rounded out the group with a good supporting interpretation of Jan. Finally, squeaky clean Sandy was played by Jenny Aubrey. What a transformation at the end.

I particularly enjoyed the scene and combined vocals where Sandy and local boy Danny tell their versions of the warm Summer Nights they shared while she was vacationing on a beach. Cody Smith delivered some strong vocals in that scene as Danny Zuko, the bad boy of the T-birds. A black, Travolta pompadour would have made him a little more believable. Just sayin'.

Chris Skipper portrayed Roger with the usual enthusiasm he gives all his characters. Oh, it's not a nice thing to moon the principal, if you believe his story, but hey, that's Roger. Porter Conroy(Doody) and Spencer Chapa(Kenickie) both turned in admirable performances as did the whole supporting cast, crew and production team under Monica Shows as director. Not to leave unmentioned, the singing and choreography of Born To Hand-Jive was a noteworthy highlight.

So, dig out your black pants, white t-shirts, pink jackets, and slick your hair back and come on down to the James F. Dean Theatre for a night of riotous, PG 13 fun with the Rydell High Class of 1959. The seats are selling out fast for the remaining shows. Purchase your ticket.

1 comment:

chrissy said...

WOW, Rick THANK YOU this review is amazing.